This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, click here.
There are a multitude of personality assessments and corresponding personality types available. My favorite is DiSC, which categorizes behaviour into four different personality types based on a person’s assertiveness and responsiveness.
Before we get too into the depth of these personality types, it’s important that we caveat that this is simply a framework for understanding a person’s behavior. You cannot understand someone’s values, beliefs, motivations or worth by these personality types.
This framework is simply meant to understand other people’s behaviors, and our own, so that we can determine the best way to communicate with each other. Failure to understand these intrinsic differences in the way we communicate with each other can lead to poor interpersonal relationships at work or at home.
Do you remember the golden rule? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? I hate to break it to you, but our parents misled us, my friends.
We now need to be living by the platinum rule. Do unto others as they want you to do.
The golden rule implies that other people want to be treated the way that we want to be treated, but that model is inherently flawed. We are all different and unique, and this framework is going to help us understand that. It will also help us identify how to adapt our style slightly when engaging with others in order to make our communication more effective. You can apply this skills to any relationship in your life: partner, kids, colleagues, friends, family, etc.
The DiSC model breaks our personality types down along two continuums. How assertive we are and how responsive we are. Let’s start with assertiveness.
How confident or forceful we are indicates our assertiveness. Do we naturally make statements or ask questions? People who are highly assertive (Tell on the diagram below) tend to speak more loudly, more quickly, they talk a lot, they are comfortable interrupting others when they speak and they tend to like the spotlight. People who are less assertive (Ask on the diagram below) tend to speak more softly, slowly, talk less, do not interrupt others, dislike the spotlight and ask a lot of questions.
As an example, someone who is highly assertive may say, “Let’s go to Houston’s for lunch today.” Whereas someone who is less assertive might say, “I was thinking Houston’s would be good for lunch. Does that sound good to you?”
There is nothing wrong with either of these approaches. They are simply different. And people who are highly assertive may misinterpret those who are less assertive as not caring as much because they asked, instead of told. People who are less assertive may infer that those who stated, “Let’s go to Houston’s for lunch today,” don’t care about their opinions, which is not necessarily true. Understanding these inherent differences enable us to better communicate with each other.
The second continuum is Responsiveness, which refers to how you display your emotions. People range from non-responsive, not displaying their emotions, to being highly responsive and showing their emotions. Just because you do not wear your heart on your sleeve, does not mean you don’t have feelings too.
People who are non-responsive (Task in the diagram below) tend to wear more serious expressions on their face, speak with an even tone, have fewer, more controlled gestures, talk about things instead of people and usually seem more formal. Whereas, responsive (People in the diagram below) individuals are very animated, have inflections in their voice, talk about “we” and seem casual.
Let’s say a colleague of yours is a Task person. He or she might walk into your office on a Monday morning, with little to no greeting and begin asking you a work question. Whereas, someone who is a People person is going to come into your office and spend 20 minutes talking about what you did over the weekend before getting down to business. Depending on your style, you may think one of these two is being rude, when they are just being themselves.
When you combine these two continuums you get four different categories of personality types, as shown below. Dominant personalities are Assertive and Non-Responsive. Whereas, those who are Assertive but Responsive are characteristically Influencers. And, Steady personalities are Non-Assertive but Responsive, while those who are Non-Assertive and Non-Responsive are categorized as Conscientious personality types.
THE FOUR PRIMARY PERSONALITY TYPES
PERSONALITY TYPE: DOMINANCE
Dominant personality types are results oriented. They don’t have time for chit chat and to others may come across as rude and abrasive.
When communicating with someone who is a “D”, it’s important to remember they are focused on the results and they are likely not trying to be rude. “D” personality types prefer that you are focused and to the point when communicating with them.
PERSONALITY TYPE: INFLUENCE
Influencer personality types focus on their ability to influence others and will likely be effective in sales and leadership roles. They are easily distracted by their high energy and concern for others. The most effective way to communicate with an “I” is to hear their ideas out and try to help them work through the finer points they may overlook.
PERSONALITY TYPE: STEADINESS
Steady personality types are typically the glue that holds a team together. They avoid conflict, try to resolve issues and take care of people. When engaging with an “S,” spend time socializing with them before getting to the point. Ask them their thoughts or they may not share them. Note that sometimes an “S” will stretch the truth to avoid conflict. Ask “S” personality types questions and give them plenty of time to respond, even if it’s awkward.
PERSONALITY TYPE: CONSCIENTIOUS
Conscientious personality types are your data people. They tend to be highly analytical and know the intricate details of everything. When engaging with a “C” it’s important to listen to the details they have to offer and then pull them up to see the bigger picture so they can make an effective decision from that vantage point. “C” personality types may seem reserved, so ask them a lot of questions to engage them in the conversation. Like an “S” you may need to just wait after asking them a question to give them time to respond.
These personality types are HUGE in understanding how to best engage with others. Think about one person with whom you want to improve your relationship.
So, which of these 4 personality types best reflect them? Which one are you? Those diagonally opposed S-D and I-C are most likely to struggle communicating, but if you engage with that person the way they want to be engaged, they will naturally respond in kind.
I promise, it works. I once had a colleague who was a “D” (and I’m an “I”) and I went into her office without saying “Hi!” asked her a question too loudly and too quickly, which was very uncomfortable to me. She didn’t seem to notice.
But the next day, she came into my office after stopping at Starbucks and getting my favorite drink and spent 20 minutes talking. It was remarkable. And now, even though we no longer work together, we are still friends.
Get uncomfortable. Try to match the personality types of those with whom you struggle to connect. What’s the worst that could happen? You could still not get along well?!?!